Saturday, February 18, 2012

Goal Setting - 10 months past

10 months ago my sister-in-law encouraged me to think seriously about goal setting.  I was paging back through my blog recently, and found this list.  And while looking at it, I realized that I can accomplished most of my goals!  So it is time to review and set new ones!  I was so excited to see, that without thinking too much about it, just the process of taking time to set goals put me in the mindset to achieve it.

In the classroom, I am always vary of having students set goals - I mean - will they really achieve them?  Are they taking them seriously?  But the cognitive process of making yourself aware of your goals really is a meaningful part of being able to ACHIEVE them.  And let me tell you - it feels GOOD.  I think I'm going to start doing more goal setting with my students.  But in the meanwhile - my goals:

MY GOALS (Apri 2011) (Original Post)

Within One Year
  • Obtain a permanent position in my school district - DONE
  • Find 3 extra-curricular needs in the school community (one to meet the need of the students, one to meet the need of the staff, and one to meet my own personal passions) - STUDENT COUNCIL, GRADE 7 TRANSITION, TWITTER
  • Begin my Masters in Education or (if necessary) Apply to a Masters of Education program to begin the following year - YUP.  IN SEMESTER 2, CREATIVE, CRITICAL and COLLABORATIVE INQUIRY
  • Formally or informally mentor a student teacher in my school community - HAVE A STUDENT TEACHER RIGHT NOW
  • Teach all my students how to use twitter for classroom learning - YES
  • Try 3-4 new pieces of technology in the classroom (including Pasco products) - YES, minus the Pasco Products
  • Help 3 teachers develop a PLN - YES YES YES and then some
  • Get a class website up and running in a way that students will access - REPLACED THIS WITH TWITTER and GOOGLE DOCS - which ARE BEING ACCESSED DAILY!

MY NEW GOALS (February 2012)

Within One Year
  • Take a group of Yearbook Students to NYC for training (scheduled for June 2012)
  • Have students involved with developing their own assessment
  • Teach critical thinking and scientific method in greater depth
  • Have students complete scientific inquiry projects
  • Learn how to use Pasco products
  • Blog Weekly (Continued Goal)
  • Teach a Senior Level Science Course
  • Develop a Water/Geological Systems Field Trip for Grade 8's
  • Develop Skills using Photography Lighting Systems and set up a temporary studio for Yearbook
  • Take a professional photography class
  • Develop 10 new demos to incorporate into lessons

I think it's important to note that these goals were set by me and for me.  This wasn't a task I was given by an administrator or professor.  I didn't create them to impress anyone else.  I created (and posted) them for accountability.  For my own growth.  They are not "done" and I have not moved on.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Quiet is Overrated

I teach two blocks of grade 8 science.  My first block works very quietly.  When I give them an assignment, the "work" quietly at their desks.  They do as I ask.  They don't talk out of turn.  They are easy to manage.  When I walk around the room, about 2/3 of them are working.  The other 1/3 are sitting there quietly, not disturbing anyone.  Today I gave them an assignment to write a story or comic that uses density to solve a mystery (murder mystery, is this a real diamond mystery, who stole the cake mystery etc).  At the end of 75 minutes, 1/2 of the students had started an idea.  1/2 of the student had, at most, one sentence, or a stick person drawn.  But they were quiet.  I had the chance to mark their quizzes, respond to a few emails, edit a few yearbook photos.

My second block is loud.  I mean LOUD.  I spend a lot of time reminding them of appropriate volumes and giving speeches on respecting our neighbours by keeping to a reasonable volume.  They are always interrupting me to share their ideas when we're learning new material, and asking questions.  They don't know how to turn away from their neighbours and focus on any given practice questions.  They HATE sitting in their seats.  I attributed this to the fact my class is 65% boys, or that most of the kids are enrolled in a drama class, but that cannot be proven.  Of course, the instinct is to control them.  This "chaos" is hard to handle sometimes.  I'm a little bit "type A" and working with this class, on days, has the potential to leave me frustrated.  Except that I'm not.

You see, when I told them about doing a mystery density assignment, they instantly rose to the challenge. The room gets loud.  Kids start coming up to me with new ideas.  BETTER ideas.  They are eager to demonstrate learning!  They just have ideas about how to do it in ways that work for them.  Two girls are shooting a video.  The room may be loud, but after 20 minutes the script is all written and they are making an equipment list for Monday.  1 student is making a rap video.  1 student designed a comic about a pirate searching for gold.  3 kids got out their iPhones and downloaded new apps to take photos and build a digital comic strip.  2 students asked to use a program called scratch, and one is making a storybook Prezi.  I can see scene rehearsals, and hear the faint beats of a rap in progress.  Kids are storyboarding their plans for the computer applications, and bouncing their ideas off their neighbours.  One student came to me so we could google the bone density of a triceratops.  Other kids are using using their iPhones/iPods to google densities of other substances not found in their textbooks.  My room is loud.  And this is GOOD.  Quiet is overrated.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Here We Go Again

During my water systems unit with my grade 8's this past January, I gave them a choice of activities to demonstrate their learning about the water cycle.  One of those options was to write a song about the water cycle.

One of my students really rose to the challenge.  She wrote an original song, recorded the guitar and the vocals using Garage Band on her iPad, and then emailed it in.  This project met all the criteria and demonstrated understanding.  It also exceeded expectations in every possible way.  She took ownership, she indulged her creativity, and she demonstrated her learning.  And it is amazing.

So I share this, with her permission, because it is too good not to share.  

by Hazelle D.

As I go around the land
It gets hot like desert sand,
I look down and I see
I have lifted off the ground

While I'm floating in the sky,
As invisible little spices
I'm colliding in one big fluff
White as snow, here we go, come on keep floating now

As long as the sun keeps shining
The longer this will go
Land or ocean, I'll be there, waiting for this to start all over
Oh, here we go again

We wait and we wait until the time is right
We're ready to fall there's no time to put up a fight
And we fall, liquid, solid, rain or snow
When we'll hit the ground, neither of us will know

I feel myself reach the ground
We flow throughout and around
We're following the same old plan
We'll run-off into those water lands

As long as the sun keeps shining
The longer this will go
Land or ocean, I'll be there, waiting for this to start all over
Oh, here we go again

Friday, February 3, 2012

Can I have another go?

A grade 8 student asked me the following this afternoon:

"Can I have another go at the project I just handed in.  I know I can do much better and I don't think it represented how much I really know about safety.  I'd like a chance to do it again.  I will hand it in on Monday."

Yes.  Yes you can.  Thank you for asking.

I love it when students "get it."  I wish more of them understood that what I am asking for in projects is for them to demonstrate their learning.  "How much do you understand about lab safety?  Prove it to me." I just want their best.  It isn't about jumping through my hoops.  It isn't about due dates.

The assignment in question was a "What not to wear" safety poster.  They needed to draw 2 people, demonstrating 10 safe things to wear in the lab, and 10 not-so-safe things to wear in the lab.  One student asked me if she could dress up and model and take a picture instead of drawing.  Another 2 students asked if they could write what not to wear raps instead.  Moments like this make me extraordinarily happy.  There is so much talent trapped in our students, along side their ever increasing understanding of the "stuff" we are teaching.  If the way I have asked them to prove it doesn't "fit" with who they are - I encourage them to pitch me something different. Sometimes they do.  And sometimes it is AMAZING. 

It's only 5 days into the semester and my grade 8's already "get it."  I am very excited for what the next 5 months will bring.